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Depression and cognitive decline are highly prevalent in older persons and both are associated with low serum brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Mutual pathways of depression and cognitive decline in older persons may explain the overlap in symptoms and low serum BDNF. We hypothesized that serum BDNF levels are lower in depressed elderly with poor cognitive performance (global or specifically in working memory, speed of information processing, and episodic memory) compared to depressed elderly without cognitive impairment or non-depressed controls.
BDNF Serum levels and cognitive functioning were examined in 378 depressed persons and 132 non-depressed controls from a large prospective study on late-life depression. The association between BDNF levels and each cognitive domain among the depressed patients was tested by four separate linear regression models adjusted for relevant covariates. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed to compare BDNF serum levels in three groups (depression with cognitive impairment, depression without cognitive impairment, and non-depressed controls), when adjusted for potential confounders.
No significant linear association was found between BDNF and any of the four cognitive domains tested. There are no differences in BDNF levels between controls and depressed patients with or without cognitive impairment global or in specific domains after controlling for confounders.
BDNF serum levels in this cohort of older depressed patients and controls are not related to cognitive functioning. As BDNF is essential for the survival and functioning of neurons, its levels may remain normal in stages of disease where remission is achievable.
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